The weather had finally cooled off enough to wear boots and it’d been a month since my surgery. Standing in my closet I decided it was time to give it a try so I put on a pair of jeans and slid my boots on. For half of church we’re standing so thirty minutes sitting didn’t seem like an eternity.
That was until about ten minutes into the sermon, which much to my dismay was about healing—specifically believing God has the power to heal. Not exactly what I wanted to hear while I was discovering the procedure I’d had wasn’t bringing the relief I’d hoped for.
By the twenty minute mark I couldn’t hear a word the pastor said and honestly I was fed up with him. Faith that God can heal isn’t actually an issue for most believers. The bigger question is why does God choose to intervene in some situations and not others? After all, in the New Testament no direct request made of Jesus for physical healing was denied. Let’s talk about that! I wanted to shout at the pastor.
I left church wanting a drink so as soon as I got home I peeled off my jeans and headed for Starbucks since it was too early for wine. Fortunately I didn’t see anyone I knew so I didn’t have to pretend I was having a good day. That was until I turned to leave and ran right into a friend who’d been following my recovery.
When she asked how I was doing I tried to muster up the obligatory, “fine” but couldn’t. “Today isn’t the best day,” I said.
“Not wearing underwear yet,” she asked laughing a little bit.
“Not so much,” I said.
“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry for making a joke there.”
“Well I know it’s no laughing matter.”
“No, but I wasn’t offended.”
“Thank goodness. You must be so disappointed though.”
“I am but not just for me—for everyone who’s invested in hoping for me too.”
“I get what you mean there.”
As she said this I noticed a penny on the ground behind her. Spotting it felt like what she’d just said hit the nail on the head. Falling short of what you’ve hoped for is like being a half a second away from medaling in the Olympics—it’s agonizing.
My friend’s coffee was ready so we said goodbye but not before I grabbed the penny behind her. I set it outside my penny bowl where it sat for several weeks. One day it says nobody, including you is disappointed in God and the next it says yes you all are. It’s like a flip of the coin but that penny hasn’t actually moved.
It’s crazy making because unanswered prayer is hard to understand. When you’re praying for something silly yes but ten years of chronic pain that doesn’t seem trivial. How does a person reconcile the lavish promises of Scripture with the actual experience? You can reason your way through them but then it becomes an intellectual argument which offers little comfort.
This week I finally threw the penny in the bowl with the rest of my finds and said okay enough with being disappointed. Your faith is bigger than this setback and so is the faith of your friends. Stop reducing it to the size of a coin. This isn’t the first time any of your loved ones have heard God say no.
Then I went to church Sunday, wearing a dress, and when the same preacher who’d talked about healing took to the podium I heard the third side of the coin. The one you have to imagine is there and it asked me why I’d decided this was a yes or no proposition? Why I’d decided that the question had been asked and answered when the possibility exists that this is actually one of those scenarios where the answer is, “not yet”.
It wasn’t the pastors message per se it was the title of it, “Ask Again” which brought to mind two of my favorite parables in the Bible—The Persistent Friend and The Persistent Widow. (Luke 11 & 18) Both are conversations Jesus had with his disciples about persisting in prayer—not giving up. The answers may not come on our timeline or the way we picture but that doesn’t mean we’ve been denied. Not yet is still a possibility.
I had to fight back the tears. I felt embarrassed before God that I’d settled the question so quickly. I thought I had my head on straight before the surgery but then a month later when my pain was back with a vengeance I let myself assume the worst. I know pain will do this to a person but after ten years of it I also know that’s exactly the mindset God wants to free me from. Pain is always temporary even when there seems to be no end in sight.